You’ve seen blue and white china around all of your life, at restaurants, grandma’s house, where ever. It’s often called “Willow Pattern”. I’ve always loved the blue color. But I
never knew there was so much more to the story. This is the kind of thing your Grandmother had in a glass-fronted cabinet or on the mantel.
Welcome to the 21st century.
I’ve always wanted to know Why Blue? Sure, I love the color and Cobalt Blue is a wonderful color to use as a decorating accent (or all over for that matter), but where did “Willow pattern” and all the rest come from? And why is Jingdezhen called the porcelain capital of China?
It seemed logical that the manufacturing of anything would begin with the raw materials. So…
They start with Kaolinite, a fine white clay, and the name is derived from Kao-ling or Gaoling, a village near Jingdezhen. (This is the same stuff they once used in Kaopectate. Is that weird!?) Jingdezhen’s porcelain has been famous not only in China but also internationally for being “as thin as paper, as white as jade, as bright as a mirror, and as sound as a bell”.
The development of Cobalt blue decorations was due to the combination of Chinese techniques and Islamic trade. Cobalt blue pigments were excavated from local mines in central Persia from the 9th century, and then were exported as a raw material to China. The blue and white designs on what we call ‘china’ were made possible by the Cobalt from Persia (called Huihui qing, “Islamic blue”), combined with the translucent white quality of Chinese porcelain. In the early 14th century mass-production of fine, translucent, blue and white porcelain started at Jingdezhen.
(My apologies to the original authors. Most of this was lifted from Wikipedia and slightly modified for use here.)
So that’s your brief history. But there’s more to this story.